A Black student from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) says campus fraternity members have made him the target of racial harassment and threats.
Arluan Van Hook, 18, returned to his parent’s home in St. Louis after enduring months of harassment from white members of a fraternity he was trying to join.
“I have dealt with racism, hazing, and I’ve witnessed homophobic slurs. And that’s not something that I personally stand for,” Van Hook said.
In October, Van Hook reported the alleged abuse to SIUE Vice-Chancellor Jeffrey Waple and began receiving threatening phone calls from the university’s Kappa Sigma chapter members. He now has to be escorted around campus by a police officer.
“When [members] got word that this investigation started, I received several different phone calls telling me to watch my back on campus,” Van Hook told TheGrio. “There’s 50 of them, one of me. So that really played a big factor in it. It’s just not feasible to be able to fight 50 individuals when there’s one of you.”
In February, the SIUE engineering student attended a “Meet the Fraternities” on-campus event where he learned about the Kappa Sigma Fraternity and pledged to the frat the following month. Problems quickly arose when Van Hook started to receive discriminatory texts from frat members.
“These guys seemed on the up and up, but as time developed, true colors started to show,” he explained.
In October, Van Hook quit pledging Kappa Sigma after the racist jokes from members became too much, calling him the “N-word” and stating, “All African-Americans are on welfare.”
Kappa Sigma Fraternity national leaders shared that they have suspended six members of its SIUE chapter for their “inappropriate” and “inexcusable” comments.
“The remarks made by these individuals are contrary to the teachings and values of Kappa Sigma Fraternity,” Kappa Sigma declared in an email statement. “The fraternity is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and Kappa Sigma embraces men of all races and walks of life in the membership of our fraternity.”
School administrators reportedly have not issued any disciplinary action to any of the students involved.
“This disrespectful behavior is unacceptable and has no place at SIUE,” spokesperson Megan Wieser told TheGrio. “University Police has provided police escorts for the student, and the university issued a no-contact order between the student and all members of the fraternity. The fraternity was placed on a cease and desist, and options were provided to adjust on-campus living arrangements for the victim.”
However, Van Hooks considers his police escort to be “a bit of an embarrassment.”
“As an African American, having to get into the back of a police cruiser anytime you want to go somewhere on campus and then to have to have the officer open the back of the police cruiser door … Imagine the image that has put on me,” he said.
Despite being advised by his peers to enroll in other universities, Van Hook refuses, explaining he’s looking out for future students wanting to join a Caucasian frat.
“I’m not going to run away,” Van Hook said. “I don’t want another student who goes to this university to have to endure this just because they joined a Caucasian fraternity.”
He’s scheduled to participate in an SIUE administrative hearing about the matter on Thursday and has enrolled in counseling to overcome his traumatic experiences.